Astonishments and Observations

As I type this I am sitting on my awfully long 7-hour flight from Frankfurt to Boston. I’ve only been in the air for a little over an hour and I am already sore and achy, way beyond sick of sitting. I am just waiting for them to serve us our hot meal so I can take a nap and hopefully knock off some of the remaining hours in my sleep. The British versions of the magazines that I bought in the Dresden airport can only hold my attention for so long. I have had a good amount of time to think of things that I noticed while living in Dresden that may or may not be unique to the area but they definitely caught my attention as something noteworthy that I wish to share with you.
1. There is a very high level of trust in people. Starbucks (which I only went to because they provided free internet) gives you real mugs and plates if you are dining there. The window in my apartment on the 17th floor of the building had no safety mechanisms on it of any sort. It was very large, about a 5’ square, and swung all the way open. It would be so unbelievably easy for someone to exit out the window. I guess German students are always happy?
2. You can get a delicious meal for less than 3 Euros on almost any street: BRATWURST
3. As I mentioned in an earlier post, German have absolutely no fashion sense. I wonder if they even know what fashion sense is.
4. Beer is cheaper than water. True story. They would rather you be drunk than hydrated. The beer gardens in the Herbsmarkt charge you a glass deposit and if you return the glass after you are done with your beer in you get a few Euros back.
5. It is not against the law to carry open alcohol containers around in public places. What freedom.
6. My mom noticed that many restaurants with outdoor seating areas had heat lamps and blankets folded over the chairs for diners to use if they get too cold. I guess Germans will eat outside until their limbs fall off from the cold.
7. Bikes are everywhere to be seen. Helmets, not so much.
8. Everyone in Germany eats ice cream all the time. (When I say everyone I really do mean everyone.)
9. There is one whole aisle (out of 6) in the supermarket devoted to chocolate and another whole aisle with sweets that do not contain chocolate. And the chocolate overflow that didn’t fit in the other aisle. The other are divided as such: One for powdered cappuccino powder, instant coffee, and cereal. One for baking goods, pasta, rice, and other cooking needs. One for canned and jarred foods. Lastly, one for beer, wine, and spirits. The walls of the store are lined with yogurts, cheeses, and meats. The produce section is a little block when you first walk in with a very sad assortment and even sadder quality. Some veggies that I bought went bad in my fridge within 2 or 3 days. So sad. I can’t wait for fresh produce.
10. Nutella and hazelnuts are everywhere. No complaints.
11. Church bells chime at the most random inexplicable hours of the day and night.
12. Even Germans that claim to know only “a little” English can carry on a conversation without much struggle. I can’t even count the words I know in German on both hands. Okay, maybe I do need to add a few toes in there. I know nothing about verbs though so that stops all complete sentences in their tracks.
13. They don’t put ice in their sodas.
14. Apples juice comes in two different forms. From red apples or from yellow/green apples. Sorry to say I did not try them to taste the difference. I can tell already that is going to be one of my big regrets in life.
15. Bees are everywhere.
16. Flies somehow appear indoors out of thin air.
17. Babies and toddlers are in abundant supply. I don’t know why but I feel like I saw several each day and that I only see one maybe two, if that, a day in America.
Well that sums it up for now. I am sure there are more but that is all I was able to whip out at this time.
I succeeded in taking a nap. 2 hours gone and just over an hour and a half until touchdown in Boston. Could this day get any longer? I have been awake for 12 hours already and have another 9 until I get home. I’m thinking another nap on the flight from Boston to Pittsburgh.


Parental Visit

The rents arrived for a visit yesterday morning. Fun times! I first met up with them outside the Semperoper yesterday around 2:30 after I was finished with my rehearsals for the day. Being without any form of communication with each other in Germany except for speaking face to face we planned our meeting place the day prior before they had left America. The plan was to meet either outside the theatre or back in the lobby of the hotel. Not knowing which place they would be I came out of rehearsal into the “platz” with my eyes peeled. I slowly swerved my way around hoards of tourists to finally find them standing along the far side of the platz with the same searching eyes. I took them back to see my apartment (and so I could shower) and then we headed to Neustadt to check out an interesting store that the guidebook recommended. It was a quaint wine and cheese store that was decorated wall to wall lovely painted tiles. Along with a large assortment of cheese, wine, and other milk products another room in the store sold random little trinkets and a few gift boxes with strawberry wine and jams. Tasty. They sadly do not allow pictures and, as witnessed, will not hesitate to remind you if they see you pulling out your camera to take one. Before leaving we bought a small piece of Camembert and part of a loaf of walnut bread for a late afternoon snack/very early appetizer, depending on your point of view. It was sublime. After we finished our snack we headed back to Alstadt for dinner at Max. It was a simple restaurant with a simple interior and simple food. Don’t mistake and of the simplicity for lack of quality though. It was all delicious. From the local draft beer, the tomato soup and the pork with potato pancakes to the smoked salmon, the grilled vegetables and the olives everything was quite tasty. After dinner M & D headed back to their hotel for a long restorative sleep.

Day 2: Saturday. I had a short morning at ballet. As we arranged prior to parting the night before, my parents and I met up at 11:30 at their hotel. We had lunch at the Herbstmarkt that has been set up in Altmarkt Platz for almost a month now. I had currywurst with pommes (my first), Dad got bratwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes and Mom got a picked herring sandwich. The currywurst was basically just a cut up bratwurst with some type of curry like sauce poured on it. I added fries on the side. They were made fresh to order too. The bratwurst is cooked at any time and just kept warm if it is not sold right away but they make the fries to order. I had to wait an extra 5 minutes or so before I got my lunch just for the fries. But hey, I’m not complaining!

Our next stop was the Hygiene Museum on the outskirts of the Grosser Garten. Don’t let the name fool you, this museum had nothing to do with soap or handy wipes or hand sanitizer. No no no. The stationary exhibit has features on the human body, inside and out, germs, food, the brain, sex, limb deformities, eyes and ears, and beauty and appearance. The temporary exhibit featured artwork from different time periods of artists attempts to capture human expression and the first few images and artist renderings of the brain and its inner workings. Very interesting indeed.

For dinner we headed to another guidebook recommendation that I have had my eye on since I got to Dresden but never made the trip to. The brenNessel is an adorable little restaurant hidden among houses and the Dresden School of Music. Everything on the menu was vegetarian. And everything on the menu was only written in German. It was an adventure just translating let alone deciding what we were in the mood to eat. We figured most of it out (with a little help from out waitor) and made some very delicious decisions. We all shared two salads to start. The first had a coleslaw type base and was topped with apple slices, walnuts, and the biggest green grapes I have ever seen. The second had a small bed of arugula underneath a generous mound of roast beets and large clumps of goat cheese. The beets had some sort of sauce on them that somewhat resembled the color of Pepto-Bismol but was not in anyway unappealing. For the main course we ordered three entrees that we were all interested in and split them each three ways. Entree number one was a roulade. Cabbage rolled with some sort of grain on the inside topped with a fresh tomato sauce. On the side were large roasted potatoes with rosemary and a small green salad. Yum. Entree number two was a pasta dish. Penne with mushrooms and cubed apples tossed in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Double yum. Entree number three was rice, chickpeas and eggplant with curry spices baked in a casserole dish with a layer of sheeps cheese and a few cashews on top. Triple yum! All three had such different flavors but not one was any better or worse than the last. They were all exceptional. I’m just sad I didn’t make the trip to this restaurant sooner because I would love to go back! I did take home the part of the rice/curry/eggplant/cheesy deliciousness that we got too full to finish and I can’t wait to enjoy it a second time.



Sunday night was my first performance on stage with the Dresden Semperoper Ballet performing Aaron Watkin’s Swan Lake. It felt like a dream.

My day started like any other with a ballet class for an hour and 15 minutes. I had no rehearsal that day because of the show so most of the afternoon was spent lounging around. At 4:30 I returned to the theatre for my makeup call. Every single dancer has an assigned makeup call. They were written out on a list earlier in the week. The women were split among 6 makeup ladies, the men among 4. At my assigned time I walked into the makeup room and sat down at Claudia’s station. The room was set up just as one would expect a makeup room to be. There were two narrow rows lined with mirrors and barbershop chairs on both sides. Laid out on the counter in front of me was a tray with about 12 different shades of blush. Behind that was a tackle box filled with assorted hair pins. Headpieces were hanging from a cabinet overhead. There was a cup of various brushes in the corner. Foundation sticks and clean sponges were randomly hanging out in many places on the counter. Claudia started with my hair. She brushed it out, sprayed it with an incredible amount of hairspray and neatly combed is back into a low ponytail with a center part. From there she twisted it up into a bun. My only involvement in this whole hair/makeup process was holing bobby pins over my shoulder so Claudia didn’t have to reach to the counter every time and fiddle with untangling them. After my hair was tight and neat she moved on to my face. After looking through al of the shades of foundation she used the last one she picked up to cover my forehead, nose and cheeks. I think she used a slightly darker shade for the lower half of my face but I am not positive. My eyes were closed a lot of the time. Next came the eyeshadow. A pinkish color on the inside of my lid and a darker shade on the outside. Every time she sipped the brush in the powder she put two colors on at one time. I don’t know what that accomplishes at all but it was rather intriguing. Eyeliner next. Liquid. Applied using a brush that was dipped in water then in the pad of black liner. Then came the fake eyelashes. First she measured the width of my eye and trimmed a little off of each end, applied the most perfect thin line of glue and delicately placed them on my eyes. One at a time of course. Once those were successfully attached she finished up by brushing rouge on my cheeks and a little bit of brown shadow along my hairline and under my cheekbones for come contouring. I looked great, if I may say so myself. I wish I could get my makeup professionally done all the time. What a way to be pampered!

Warm-up class started at 6 and lasted for a scheduled 30 minutes. The teacher offered an extra 15 minutes of center work for anyone that was willing so I stayed just to ensure I was on my leg and fully warm. Mission accomplished. I headed back to my dressing room to change into my costume and headed back into the studio to put on my pointe shoes, review the choreography, and keep warm. My first entrance is not until the 2nd act (of the 4 act ballet) so I got to watch the first act from the TV that was turned on in the studio. Before I knew it, it was time to go backstage. If I wasn’t nervous before, I sure was now. Standing backstage looking at all the other swans marking choreography around me just made me lose were I was for a minute. I had entered another universe where even though there are dancers all around me and an entire house full of attendees I am the only one that exists. It is a rather funny feeling that I am having slight struggles describing. The best description I can come up with is that I feel acutely aware of myself and what is around me yet at the same time seem to feel nothing. The ballet went by in a blur. The corps de ballet was praised for a job well done by the director after the curtain closed for the final time. I got out of my costume, took off my makeup, took out my hair, showered, and that was that.

It didn’t sink in that I had just performed in 2 acts of Swan Lake until I woke up the next morning. How unreal.

Time to do it again!

Epic Win

Today was a great day. With our first performance of Swan Lake in two days we were doing everything but rehearsing. But really, that’s the truth. It’s a little disconcerting for me because that is not what I am used to but I’m sure it will end up to be just fine. Most of the company has performed it yearly for quite some time so if I ever get lost I can just look around and follow someone who knows it like the back of her hand.

I had rehearsal for one hour this morning. I was dancing for about 20 minutes of that then just sitting and watching a part I was not in for the last 40 minutes. Quality. Once my dancing day was finished at noon I went out to lunch with some friends. We went to a local establishment that serves up a local specialty. There are many different names and varieties to what I am about to explain. (The version I got is called doner). Essentially they are the insides of a gyro stuffed into different carbohydrate exteriors. Mine was in a crunchy flatbread type pita. I have never encountered anything quite like it before. It was delicious though. Fluffier than normal flatbread but still somewhat dense. Then toasted to get that little crunch. (The other options were a large tortilla type bread, a smaller round bread with a bit of cheese crisped on it, and of course a bread-less option for the carb conscious). Inside was shaved lamb (mmmmmmmmmmmmm), tomatoes, onions, shaved lettuce, and 2 different unknown sauces, one red and one white. So there you have it. The German Gyro.

Fully stuffed and satisfied, we moved on to the next activity. Shopping. But don’t get too excited yet. On our way to the large outdoor shopping street something happened that made my day. No, probably my week. I got approached by a street fashion scout. She came over (dressed in her model-esque outfit) and put her head right in front of mine. The first question she asked was what language I spoke. Once we got that out of the way she continued to explain to me that her team was out there with Grazia Magazine looking for people on the street that are fashionable. She said I look “pretty fashionable” and asked if they could take my picture. “Of course”, I responded calmly. I was truly freaking out and jumping for joy on the inside. It has been a dream of mine to be stopped on the street for such a purpose for a few years now. I mean… it is only Dresden, but who really cares. Dreams can come true! I filled out a short form with my e-mail and such. I now am entered for a chance to win tickets to Fashion Week in New York. How exotic. At least there is an exciting activity to add to that gift. My picture was taken a few times, I was handed a copy of their magazine and that was that. That’s when I kind of hyperventilated a little bit. No big deal.

The day continued with some small purchases, a little down time, some burnt rice, and a roller blading street party. Yeah, about ten minutes ago I heard loud dance music coming from outside so I looked out the window. Down on the street were a few cars with flashing lights (not police cars I think) and blaring music. Behind them followed a mass of Dresdeners on rollerblades. I couldn’t see the end of them. Gotta love it.

Overall this day has been an epic win. Except maybe for the burnt rice. I was really looking forward to eating that but was way too lazy to make a new batch. Oh Well. It’s the big picture that counts.

Sights To Be Seen

This weekend was a little different for me schedule wise… I had to go in to the studios on Sunday for an open house of the Semperoper. Because of this, we were given Monday off. It was so nice to walk outside on my day off and have stores to wander through and people all around me on the street to observe. What a privilege. I think I spent at least 3 hours people watching. That wasn’t the only activity I spent my day doing but it certainly was the most entertaining.

Dresdeners really have some interesting fashion. I really can’t smush it all into one generic style. In fact, I think the way I can successfully generalize Dresden fashion is to say there is no fashion at all. Yeah, that sounds about right. I will just let you feast your eyes on a few examples so you can truly understand.

After I had had enough with creeping on innocent people Hannah and I wandered into a part of Alstadt we had not yet been.  We walked a block off the main street and we welcomed by a large courtyard. On the opposite side of the cobblestone expanse stood the Frauenkirche, a gorgeous church that has graced the Dresden skyline over 2 centuries before it completely collapsed two days after the 1945 bombing and was left a pile of rubble. After Germany reunified, the public pushed to rebuild the structure and in 2005 a spitting image of the original was completed. A few pieces of the original building were salvaged and used in the rebuilding and are easy to spot due to their much darker (burnt) color.

The inside of the church was pristine. I could not help but gasp at it’s beauty when I first entered the church. Honestly. I made noise. The whole inside was white with many gold accents. The paint colors used were soft hues of pink, blue, and yellow giving it the impression of a baby’s room (and all of the innocent thoughts that go along with babies).

Not even 5 minutes after we entered a man walked up to the podium and began speaking. We had no idea what he was saying of course but everyone else inside the church began filing into the pews and sitting down to listen. Oops! Time to go. We quietly made our way out and continued wandering the streets. We walked down a small street lined with restaurants catered to tourist (the courtyard had several hotels and also many touristy restaurants), climbed a small flight of stairs and found ourselves in front of another old gorgeous building facing a beautiful view of the Elbe River and Neustadt. Wandering to our right we found a small garden nestled along the river that we strolled through. Once we circled the garden it was time to head back home. Laundry had to be done and point shoes had to be sewn. Plus we were plum tuckered out. Too many beautiful buildings (and oddly dressed people) for one day. Phew!

A “zwing” around the Zwinger

Last night Hannah and I took a marvelous after dinner stroll. We were done with rehearsals early in the afternoon so we went home to shower, take a little nap (because it is so hard not to), shower, and eat dinner. Once we had accomplished all of that the evening was still quite young. In order to not sit in our apartment and be bored until it became a decent bedtime hour we decided to go explore Dresden. Destination: the Zwinger. It is a beautiful baroque building that sits directly next to the opera house. It is a shame I hadn’t spent time to look at it sooner. Its absolutely stunning.

In its day, it was primarily a party place for royals. Today it is open to the public, housing a museum in its corridors. Since we went after it closes for the day we could not walk through the museum (what a tragedy) but we spent a long time admiring the courtyard. The lawn was beautifully manicured. It look as though not a singe person has stepped or even touched it in years. There was also a wonderful reflecting pond. Sadly, we could not see our reflections. I really wanted a nice Mufasa moment from the Lion King to happen. It didn’t.

The buildings had mostly the same architecture all the way around. There were many statues of fauns holding up the building. I couldn’t help but find them incredibly amusing. Nor could I keep myself from mocking them. To add to the already picturesque surrounding the moon graced us with it’s presence rising right over the entrance to the Zwinger. How beautiful.

On a final note I must make an addition to one of my previous posts. I failed to give full credit to the lovely Anisa for introducing me to Karstadt (the miracle grocery store). Thank you Anisa!

Double Market Day

What is there to do on a Sunday in Dresden? Not much. Not much at all. Most of the stores are closed all day long and ‘Dresdeners’ somehow remain hidden until the early hours of the afternoon. Where they are or what they are doing is far beyond me. Maybe they all need to sleep off their horrible hangovers from the barrel of beer each of them consumed the night before. I wouldn’t be surprised. (Beer is cheaper than water here. No joke.)

Thankfully as Hannah and I were the wandering around Neustadt (the part of Dresden north of the Elbe River) searching for a café, we came across an outdoor market. On our way home from the café we wandered in to see what goods it had to offer. It wasn’t a particularly large market, about 25 craft vendors and 5 or 6 food carts. It was rather peculiar though. The vendors were all selling essentially the same things: ceramic mugs, dishes, pots, and bowls. The only difference from stall to stall was the decoration and the style of the items.

I wonder if it was a special ceramic festival or something because that truly was all that was there. There were 2 stalls selling beads, but I bet those were ceramic too. Hey, maybe when Germans have had too much beer they turn ceramic making into a party game then just sell off their excess to pay for more beer. (Not a bad idea actually.)  As we were wandering around the ceramics we passed by a food cart selling bratwurst and I decided it was time. Time to have my first wurst. I negotiated the entire transaction in German too. “Eins bitte. Ja. Ja. Danke.” Success. The wurst came fresh off the grill and was nestled into a bun. After asking me for approval, the “chef” then laid a line of mustard along the wurst. The meat stuck out a good 3 inches from the bun on both sides. A perfect way to ensure that the eater will enjoy the bratwurst in is pure, delicious untouched form. That was one of the best sausages I have ever had. The soft and incredibly flavorful inside pleasantly exploded from the crunchy casing when you bit into it. Then add the plain fluffy bun around the outside for the last few bites. Pure bliss.


After I recovered from the wonderment of my first (but not only) bratwurst, we headed home for some hydration and a little rest. About an hour and a half later we headed back out to explore market number 2. This market was in Alstadt (the other side of the river) in the Altmarkt. We have seen them setting up for a few days so we made it a destination for our weekend. This market was quite different. Thank goodness. The biggest change was where people were selling their goods. They upgraded from tables under tents to mini buildings. I can’t think of a better way to describe it really.

They were constructed out of wood. Each had a roof, a counter in front where the vendors displayed what they were selling, a room behind where they could stand, doors to get in and out of the back, and shutters to close them up at night. It was quite an ordeal. The items being sold ranged from ornate wood villages and doilies to leather purses and wallets to candy, spices, and dried fruits. There were a few repeats of course but overall the variety of goods being sold was infinitely better than at market number 1. There were also many more food choices at market number 2. The end of each row of buildings had a mini restaurant. There were picnic tables set up all around the plaza where folks were drinking and dining. The food being sold was classic German fare, bratwurst of all sorts, mushroom dishes, french fries (??), beer, some type of German doughnut, crepes (??), and ice cream. Germans eat a lot of ice cream. There are shops all over the streets and it is impossible to walk around Dresden in the afternoon and not see at least 20 people licking an ice cream cone.

I may have figured it out. The staples of a German diet necessary for survival are ice cream, bratwurst, and beer. (In no particular order of course.)

Peanut Butter!

Each day I have entered a place I have not yet been, many of which are grocery stores.  It is pretty safe to say that most of the money I have spent since in Dresden is going toward food. As it should, right? Today my eyes were opened to the best grocery store yet. (That says something when you consider that I’ve been to four different stores already) Karstadt is the winner. It is on the basement floor of a large department store. My was it a beautiful sight. I finally was excited to go grocery shopping again. To compare, I would say it is most similar to Whole Foods in appearance and variety (and price) but not everything is organic, only some. There is a large supply of organic foods available at most supermarkets but the choices aren’t as large as in the United States. Being picky about buying organic is something I have had to ease up on a bit in order to continue to enjoy a varied diet.

Although this market is slightly more expensive, it’s for good reason. There are so many options to choose from and everything is of impeccable quality. And… THEY SELL PEANUT BUTTER!! Now, I don’t really eat peanut butter on a daily basis but being in a foreign country where the food I am accustomed to are less prevalent (or non-existent) I found myself really aware of it’s absence. I thought it was nowhere to be found. Then alas! My life was complete. Not only did I find peanut butter but also jars of almond butter and sunflower seed butter to name a few. Scavenging through other grocery stores there would be a whole aisle of jam and jelly, Nutella, about 3 other types of Nutella-like products and no peanut butter. Are the Germans unaware of the magic of a pure peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I suppose not. (I tried it with Nutella. It just isn’t the same.)

Otherwise, I am still experimenting with different types of milk, yogurt and cheese. It is impossible to tell what they will be like from the German on the wrapper so each selection is an adventure. Milk I have learned what to look for (most important being 1,5% fett). Cheese is easier to guess by what it looks like even though I can’t read the German names. I bought a block of cheese the other day slightly concerned as to how it would taste but it is actually quite lovely. It is a firm “lamb cheese” that has a delicate flavor that reminds me of Emmental. Quite yummy. Yogurt… I just don’t even know.

I’m just happy I finally found peanut butter. I feel so satisfied even though I haven’t even had any yet.